Do's and Don'ts for BTB Calls
What can we learn from the bad times that we can apply profitably now as we market and sell by phone?
Here's a list of what didn't work:
· Cold calling. Because it sounds too much like consumer telemarketing, most business prospects resist cold calls. A businesswoman here in Austin, TX, put it this way: "If you get me on the phone, I must have made a mistake!" Indeed, cold calling produces the lowest ROI of any phone marketing application.
· Generic, undifferentiated calling to high-level contacts.
· Out-of-context campaigns and offers. Customers and prospects want what we present to them to make sense in their business life and timetable, not ours.
· Asking outbound reps to make 100 dials a day. Dials without resulting conversations mean nothing.
· Directing inbound reps to make outbound calls "when they have time." Layoffs led to smaller phone staffs, so the remaining reps often struggled to keep up with inbound calls.
· Over-automation. To reduce costs, too many firms replaced live people with automated response systems. And don't we all love automated response systems.
· Disguising sales calls as surveys. Deception eventually destroys the deceiver regardless of the economy.
These techniques scored "style points" but little or no actual business:
· Well-rehearsed prerecorded "call me back" messages left on prospects' phone mail. The return rate remained under 4 percent.
· Narrative marketing messages left overnight for prospects to listen to in the morning. After clearing spams from their e-mail and dozens of phone messages, the last thing prospects wanted was storytelling.
What worked and will continue to work:
· Behavioral and affinity lists, not demographic or segment lists. Behavioral lists are based on verbs in addition to SIC code; e.g., grew by n%, merged, moved, etc. Affinity lists are based on recent purchases of related products or services. Such lists cost more but perform much better.
· Diligent pre-call planning, especially a 30-second visit to the prospect's Web site to learn what they do and how they market themselves. A little homework beats "tell me a little about your business" every time.
· Relevant-event marketing. Make calls of inquiry or exploration based on an organization's events or news that move them into your sphere of better-than-average prospects and on which you can build a conversation.
· Lose the pitches, hype and feature-dumps and ask meaningful questions instead.
· Get really good at multimedia marketing: phone plus e-mail plus live Web site tours and, for software, customized, guided, online product demos.
· Encourage marketing-sales coordination. The two disciplines may never love each other, but the more closely they collaborate, the better off you and your customers will be.
· Provide for time. Market and sell with vigor and enthusiasm tempered with humility and patience.